You may not have thought of it this way before but, Lent is inherently a “green” season in the Church’s calendar. No, I’m not talking about liturgical colors. I’m talking conservation. The “reduce” portion of the three “R”s, actually.
In Green 4 God, I talk about the cardinal virtues and their relationship to our stewardship of creation. To me, the virtue that really seems to summarize this relationship is temperance. Temperance is all about moderating our physical desires and keeping them in check. It’s the “everything in moderation” part of stewardship.
Lent is a great opportunity to moderate the parts of our lives that have become immoderate. Giving up alcohol, smoking or sweets are conventional approaches to re-moderating our lives during Lent. Eating more healthfully, getting more exercise and spending less time shopping and watching TV are other, less conventional ways that we could moderate our lives during Lent and have a positive effect on the Earth. The time we spend shopping or watching TV usually is time wasted. Over time, exposing ourselves to constant sensory stimulation associated with both of these activities can make us agitated, dissatisfied with our lives, and even greedy. Lent is a great time to step back from these activities and calm our senses and our consumer urges. The green result is less waste. Watching less TV not only reduces our power use, it also limits our exposure to commercials. Less exposure to commercials can help us to avoid the temptation of retail therapy which often results in over consumption and, ultimately, waste. Avoiding the mall has the same benefit of avoiding TV commercials but it also has the potential of reducing carbon emissions. That is, unless you have a habit of walking to the mall. I know I don’t!
But moderation is also about bringing things into balance. That means the things in our lives that have been neglected need to be reinvigorated as well. It’s a great season to spend time renewing habits or relationships that have been neglected over the weeks, months or years. Maybe you’ve fallen off the recycling wagon and need to get restarted. Maybe you want to take another whack at composting or gardening. Maybe you’re going to start a carpool or begin walking to school or work a few days a week. OR, maybe it’s a relationship with a family member, friend, or with God that needs mending. Prayer and the practice of love, hospitality, and forgiveness can help repair those atrophied relationships. And what better time to humble ourselves by reaching out to one another than Lent? After all, Jesus humbled himself in countless ways for us. Perhaps a little humility on our part is overdue. (Sounds like the start of another blog post!)